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Hi I'm wanting to do a overhead shot of a bike on the road. i'm wanting to know what the best drone is on a budget. I'm wanting the best blend of quality yet affordability

  • youtube.com/watch?v=kW2AgmSXVwQ – bukkojot Sep 28 '17 at 0:43
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    Just a heads-up that you might want to check the laws concerning unmanned aerial vehicles in your country if you're going to be doing this professionally. – stib Sep 28 '17 at 14:22
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Currently DJI is pretty much your go-to for this. They have a great mix of price range to performance ranging from the $500 Spark (which is actually a bit more if you want a physical controller which would be very helpful for what you want to do), up through multi-thousand dollar rigs that can fly a Ronan with a Red Epic or Arri Alexa on them.

Personally, I'm an FAA certified remote pilot and currently fly a Phantom 3 Professional. The quality of the footage is very good, especially when using an ND filter and lens shade to avoid issues with shadows from the props on the lens. The biggest limitation is that complex shots can be difficult as I have to fly both the drone and direct the camera, which can make work in tight spaces very difficult.

If you need to pull off advanced shots that require careful maneuvering of the drone itself, I'd highly recommend a two man configuration of an Inspire or Inspire 2 if you have the budget for it. The quality of the camera on the Inspire and Inspire 2 can be substantially better and the dual operators allows for one person to focus on getting the shot while the other person focuses on maneuvering the aircraft itself.

If this is out of your budget, an older Phantom or a Mavic is a great midrange option that offers solid performance for the price.

The Spark is on the low end, but is a relatively cheap entry point in to automated drone space though it is also a much more limited platform compared to the Mavic or above.

Also, be aware that total cost of ownership extends beyond just the drone itself. You will likely need a few extra batteries to be able to get shots done and possibly extra chargers to stay up and running. This alone can add hundreds of dollars to the total price tag.

Additionally, for commercial work, many localities require certification or licensing. In the US for example, part 107 remote pilots have to pass a $150 licensing exam and a TSA background check after which they get a two year license for commercial operations. While it's possible to self-study, online courses are very helpful and typically in the $125-$250 range.

Also, if you need liability insurance, you'll likely need drone specific insurance which runs a few hundred dollars a year to a little under a grand a year depending on your options for a drone in the price range you are looking at. (This also covers your liability if you crash the drone in to something or someone.)

Ultimately, if you only need a few shots, your best bet is probably to find a qualified operator in your area and contract out to them for those shots specifically. They will already have everything they need and will allow you to avoid the cost and learning curve associated with buying and learning to fly a drone well enough to get the shots you desire.

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The DJI Mavik is one of the most affordable ready-to-fly drones with enough quality (4K) for expert-looking video production.

Alternatively, you could strap an action camera, like a GoPro, to a non-camera drone. You'll likely have to heavily stabilize your footage in post.

In the lowest of budget situations, if you just need a top-down aerial shot, simply rig a phone to some tethered, helium filled balloons. This has worked well for me in the past.

In any case, there are a few extra steps you can take do to improve the footage.

  1. Buy a lens filter kit including Neutral Density and Polarizing filters for the camera.
  2. After importing the footage, correct the wide angle lens warp in After Effects.
  3. Color grade your final cut

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